Some people have a Candy Crush addiction. Others are into Angry Birds.
My pixelated drug of choice is tower defense.
There is something simple and complicated about them at the same time. You play against time, position units in space, and build more capability constrained by the resources available. Those handful of variables create endless possibilities for how games unfold. You play at the intersection of strategy and tactics.
I have searched many times for good list of the best tower defenses game. Most our link bait or dated or just a list of what someone found after a simple search.
So, from a fan to (potential) another, here are my favorites:
Kingdom Rush Series
Kingdom Rush is my favorite game of all time.
Each game in the series shares the same formula of simple gameplay, creative missions and fun storylines. The enemies enter from one to three entries points and attempt to exit the field. Your job is to stop them. There are four types of towers (mage, archers, barracks, and artillery) that can be upgraded with increasing power and specialty. Finally, you are given reinforcements to place as you like, an area attack that recharges, and a choice of hero that becomes more powerful with experience in battle. The campaign screens can take 10-15 minutes to complete.
The original Kingdom Rush sucked me in and I played it clear through and then for second time, on veteran mode clearing the campaign, heroic and iron challenges on each level. I one hundred percent-ed the game, but they kept adding harder and harder levels. I stand 15 stars short of a perfect 130.
Kingdom Rush Frontiers followed with better heroes and ability options (100%-ed). The prequel Kingdom Rush Origins completed with trilogy with more magic (where I am one mission short of completion). The latest addition to the series is Kingdom Rush Vengeance, where you play as wizard Vez’nan and attempt to recapture Linirea from the forces of good.
The reason I most like the series is the fun and humor Ironside has used in the game. Each cartooned character comes with a catch phrase, a few more if you’re a hero. There are easter eggs hidden throughout the three games that give nods to sci-fi and fantasy tales from Lords of the Rings to Predator to The Smurfs.
Start with this one. You can’t go wrong.
Rating: 10/10 for all four games.
Gamers call this Zombie Gunship a first person shooter, but I think it plays much more like a tower defense game.
Your point of view is from the seat on a AC-130 aircraft flying in wide circles around one of four compounds. You play each round in endless style gameplay clearing the area of increasing waves of zombies, so that human survivors can make their way to a safe bunker. The aircraft is armed with a gatling gun, an auto cannon and a 105mm Howtizer – each with its pros and cons for different situations. There are a variety of objectives that keep the gameplay interesting and each round of play earns you coins that buy weapon upgrades.
The constantly changing location of the aircraft creates interesting challenges for keeping track of all of the zombies entering the area. The game designers have also created blind spots as you circle around the area, which make timing even more important.
A round of gameplay can last from 3-7 minutes before you are overrun and sent home. Accidentally illing humans will also get you sent home early.
The game concept is clever and the randomness gives each play its own feel.
The first thing you notice with geoDefense is its 1980’s arcade style vectorized graphics.
The retro look might trick you into thinking the game is a reboot from your old Atari 2600. Don’t be fooled. The ten second head start will quickly feel shorter and shorter with each round on new creepers enters the screen.
The game has five towers to work with – cannon, missile, lasers, shockers, and a tower collects energy from destroyed enemies and can augment the power of another tower. The paths are always interesting with weird bends or that lead offscreen or cross back over themselves. One helpful hint – You can lock tower in a fixed direction. This is very helpful with laser towers.
geoDefense is a just great tower defense game that will give you hours of great play. 8/10
There is also a sister game geoSwarm that was developed with freeform play where you placement of your towers to determines the path of enemy adding another dimension to your strategy.
The storyline is that portals are opening outside the planets in your system. You play both military leader and chief scientist as you build towers and research new ones. Snarky banter with the alien leader is a bonus.
Radiant TD has a build your path approach to gameplay. You are given a set of modules for at the start of each level and more for each wave completed. There is a great selection of towers with more available after you build the research tower. The only paid upgrades are to give you access to the most advanced towers in the game.
There are points in the game when I wish I could have a little more control over the towers by either setting the direction or being able to target a specific enemy. Lacking those controls you learn how to build routes that minimize the targeting movement that towers make.
My main hint is make sure you use all types of towers. As the difficulty of the levels increases, you’ll need them.
Over The Top Tower Defense says it all.
It is grotesque. It is ridiculous.It is cheesy (no really, there is cheese armor). And it has a sense of humor (but in a very different way to Kingdom Rush).
There is almost too much of everything – heroes, weapons, abilities and upgrades. But if you are fan of tower defense, you appreciate it all–someone going to the extreme to see what that might look like.
If you are a fan, you should try it. 7.5/10
This is a very different take on tower defense.
As a budding entrepreneur, you have decided to go into the hotel business. The trouble is Tarnation Tadstock controls these parts of Texas and he is going to do anything he can to keep you out of business. All sorts of bad creatures from convicts to bomb laden seagulls will try to stop you have adding rooms to your hotel. The more rooms you can add, the faster you can earn money to upgrade. Each level brings different kinds of rooms with different abilities from guns to healing.
The game is quirky. The colors are bright. Things explode in big blocky pieces. And the music for the game changes based on each change to the size and shape of your hotel. There is something a little maniac about the whole combination. Makes the game seems harder.
I still like it and recommend it to any TD enthuaist.
The Anomaly Series
Anomaly take the idea of tower defense and turns it on its head. Rather than control the towers, you control the troops attempts to run the gauntlet. People sometimes call it “tower offense”.
The storyline is an alien spacecraft has landed in Baghdad and your job is to go on a series of missions inside the city to see what is going on. You get a few different vehicle types that can be upgraded with monies earned. There are also power-ups for abilities like healing, smoke screens and decoys and they are very important to collect as you destroy towers.
The game is pretty good, but the options are a little limiting. The most interesting part is playing from the other side. It’s worth trying if you enjoy tower defense
The whole series has four titles – Anomaly, Anomaly Korea, Anomaly 2, and Anomaly Defenders, where you take on the role of the aliens tower defending against a human counteract.
If you are fan, you might find my list lacking some popular and well-liked games.
Plants vs Zombies – I was a big fan of the first game and played it all the way through. I never picked up PvZ2, which was another indicator for me that the original just OK for me.
Fieldrunners – I know. This is also a big fan favorite. Many like the added challenge of being able to place your towers and determine the enemy path to the exit. I have never warmed to the free-for-all style of tower defense.
Bloons Tower Defense – I think it is built for kids and that treatment makes me discount it too much.
Todd, thanks for your review! i am starting the first kingdom rush now while recovering from surgery, looking forward to it. Wes
I too am an expert in the genre. You’re forgetting a few here:
Sleep Attack TD
And … Field Runners 2 (big improvement over the first)
I’ll add a vote for Dungeon Warfare, but my top favourite is Tower Madness – the first one. Our tastes are different though; I find the fixed paths of Kingdom Rush make it too repetitive.
Dang, I’m a grown up who really likes Bloons. I think there’s more flexibility on the placement of the towers than in a lot of the games. However, there are a lot on your list that I haven’t tried. I did really enjoy a lot of the Kingdom Rush games, though! Thanks for the list, I’ll revisit it as I have time to try the ones you’ve mentioned.